Friday 1 February 2019

A Day for Rest and a Day for Football

Watching the Super Bowl is an annual tradition for many of us, and Sunday Night Football is such a part of our weekly routine, that it might come as a surprise to hear that Ontario banned commercialized sports on Sundays until well into the twentieth century.

Blue Laws  were a way for governments to restrict work, trade, and leisure on Sundays, which for Christians is the day set aside for worship and rest. These types of laws were common throughout North America and Europe. In Canada, Prime Minister Sir Wilfrid Laurier introduced the Lord’s Day Act. The act passed in 1907 and prohibited sport, entertainment and most commerce on Sundays, ensuring that most businesses close for the day.

In 1950, Toronto held a referendum to determine if the law should change to allow for commercialized sports on Sundays. The proposed change was pretty controversial in its day; citizens formed groups lobbying for the restrictions to remain in place. Cardinal McGuigan voiced support for the Lord's Day Alliance and the Toronto Citizens Committee Opposing Commercialized Sunday Sports. As you can see in the pamphlet below, most of the arguments against Sunday Sports are based solely on religious beliefs.

"Read what Prominent Citizens have to say...they all say NO!"
Leaflet against Sunday Sports, c. 1949
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Cardinal McGuigan Fonds

We have a couple of letters addressed to the Cardinal that show not all Toronto Catholics agreed with his viewpoint. The writer below presents some solid arguments as to why commercialized sports wouldn't demoralize Canada.

Letter to Cardinal McGuigan, December 6, 1949.

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Cardinal McGuigan Fonds

In the end, Toronto voted to allow sports on Sundays, however other areas of the Lord's Day Act would be upheld until the 1960s and even the 1980s.

If you're wondering where the Church stands on Sunday sports now, Pope Francis made a statement indicating they were approved as long as they did not prevent you from attending mass.

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